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Bewitching Macbeth in impressive production

PUBLISHED: 16:14 10 February 2010 | UPDATED: 17:21 16 August 2010

STEELY-EYED: Gareth Bale as Macbeth.

STEELY-EYED: Gareth Bale as Macbeth.

SHAKESPEARE S Macbeth, directed by Alice Lacey at the Broadway Studio, is an impressively visceral production, writes Mark Campbell.

SHAKESPEARE'S Macbeth, directed by Alice Lacey at the Broadway Studio, is an impressively visceral production, writes Mark Campbell.

Gareth Bale is a thin-lipped and steely-eyed Macbeth, his native Welsh lilt adding a touch of lightness to an otherwise ferociously serious performance.

As his wife, the scheming Lady Macbeth, Helen Millar is a slender figure in a diaphanous white dress who drifts across the gloomy bare stage like a ghost from a Tamara de Lempicka painting.

It's an unusual reading of the part, and Millar could have done with a bit more steel in her performance, but it did fit perfectly with the 1930s feel of the piece.

Apparently set during the Spanish Civil War (the programme says much about the actors but nothing about the play), the heavy military costumes are of vaguely Fascist stock while the three Weird Sisters are men dressed in tatty basques and corsets.

A disturbing prologue sees the three actors performing a grotesque dance (choreographed by Julia Vandoorne) that parodies sexual congress, self-abuse and torture.

The implication is that they are sexual deviants, 'outsiders', with abilities beyond those of ordinary folk.

This is a nice idea and could have been developed further after their opening dance.

Emma Deegan is excellent as the pregnant Lady Macduff, a character normally overhadowed by Macbeth's villainous wife. Her brutal and cold-blooded murder is a horrible spectacle.

The many fight scenes, under the aegis of Mark Ruddick, are executed with precision and panache by a cast willing to bruise themselves nightly in the name of Art. No concession has been made for the actors' limbs - the floor is unyielding concrete.

As Banquo, George Richmond-Scott is an engaging figure - one of the good guys, in a play with precious few of them - whose bloody appearance as a ghost at the feast is one of the play's most memorable sequences.

Bravely, Lacey even tweaks a moment of humour out of the scene as Macbeth tries vainly to protest his sanity to his bewildered guests

At times, the complexities of the language suffers under speedy delivery - the play runs a zippy two hours - but Christopher Tester (Malcolm) stands alone for taking his time with the words and filling every sentence with meaning.

A word of praise too for Adam Harper's haunting electronic music which helps create a sense of brooding menace throughout.

* Macbeth is at the Broadway Studio Theatre, Catford, until February 20. Tickets: 020 8690 0002.

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